Oh iMac, Where Are You?

If you take a look at the Buyers Guide on MacRumors, you’ll notice that the iMac has been lying dormant for just under a year (since May 2011 to be precise), the longest period of silence since before 2008. The site recommends that any potential iMac buyers hold off for the time being, seeing as ”updates are due soon”. This would tie in with Apple’s product refresh cycle, which usually occurs every year.

But this hibernation got me thinking about two things. Firstly, are we due to see a massive overhaul of the iMac product line sometime in May/June and secondly, have Apple forgotten about their fantastic range of desktop computers?

iMac Splash

Apple's iMac hasn't seen a refresh since July 2011, the longest period of dormancy since 2008.

Where Are The New iMacs?

Desktop computers are, in some people’s eyes, becoming a bit of a dying breed. Mobility and portability is a real bonus when it comes to technology (seeing as most technology companies are obsessed with making their devices as thin and light as possible) and it’s true that you can’t lug your desktop computer around with you when you go to work – it stays on your desk for pretty much the whole year. However, I like having a fixed computer at home (which is, at the moment, a bog-standard MacBook) and if I need to do any work on the move, then my iPad steps in.

But this doesn’t really answer the question as to why has Apple left such a big gap in the release dates. Since the release of the last iMac, we have seen new releases of pretty much the whole product line, including the iPhone (the 4S version), the iPad, the iPod nano, the MacBook Pro and the MacBook Air. Even the Mac Mini, Apple’s entry-range desktop computer which ships sans monitor and keyboard got a refresh in July 2011. So why has the iMac been left behind?

MacRumors Buyers Guide

The buyers guide on MacRumors.com, showing the long delay in the iMac refresh.

There are rumours flitting around that both the iMac as well as the MacBook range of computers will be kitted out with retina displays, similar to those on the new iPad and iPhone 4 and 4S (and there’s even elementary evidence in the developer preview of Mountain Lion that suggests this).

A theoretical retina display on a 21-inch iMac would have a resolution of roughly 3200 x 2000 pixels, or 163 pixels per inch (in comparison, the iPhone 4S has 326 ppi). This mean that the user will have to sit approximately 21 inches (or 54 cm) away from the screen to get the full benefits of it. iPhones and iPads are designed to be used at close vicinity, so naturally the retina display has to be noticeable from a shorter distance (which means upping the PPI count).

High Res OS X Mountain Lion

ArsTechnica.com found evidence of high-res icons in the Mountain Lion Developer Preview, indicating possible support for Retina Display Macs

Apple have, however, been holding off a retina display for Macs for good reason. It’s unchartered territory. No other hardware manufacturer has made a display with a resolution this powerful and there is currently no processor on the market which would support such a massive resolution. However, Intel’s upcoming Ivy Bridge processors, which are slated for release sometime this summer, will theoretically support multiple 4K video playback at up to a resolution of 4,096 x 4,096.

Another possible reason could be the rumoured Intel chip shortage which may be pushing the iMac release date further back into the year. The Ivy Bridge processors were due to be released next month however a senior Intel executive confirmed that the delay was due to a more complicated manufacturing process involved in making the new chips, not due to a lack of demand.

This strongly suggests that Apple has been eyeing up these chips for use in its new models and seeing as the delay only affects dual-core chips (remember the iMac uses quad-core ones), only the 13-inch MacBook Pro may be affected (though Apple may be kitting these out with quad-core processors as well).


It is rumoured that Apple will be kitting out their new range of iMacs with Intel's new Ivy Bridge processor, allowing for a much higher resolution support (and possible retina display)

Something To Look Forward To

Whatever the reason may be, I am sure that the iMac won’t be banished into the Apple history books like the PowerBook and white MacBook (which still upsets me slightly, seeing as I am the proud owner of one). The iMac raked in around $2 billion in revenue for Apple in Q1 2012 and this figure has been increasing steadily quarter-on-quarter. I’m sure that given this long delay, and the rumours about Intel’s new processors and retina displays for Macs, the refresh will be a big one and one that was definitely worth waiting for.

What are your thoughts on all this? Are you one of the many who are eagerly awaiting the 2012 iMacs? What reasons are behind the delay and when do you think we’ll finally see them?


Add Yours
  • I have a late 2009 iMac and I’m waiting for the next update.
    I expect to be amazed…

  • I too own a white MacBook!…
    …and I will (most likely) buy the next updated iMac, hopefully 27″ version (if it will still exist). B-e-a-u-ti-ful.

  • 2009 iMac here. Waiting for the 2012’s to drop. Maxing this beast out. Top HDD/SSD combo, top i7, top GPU, going for at least 16 GB RAM, and probably a Thunderbolt SSD as well. Can’t wait!

    • YES, waiting for the exact same machine (16 GB RAM!!!), plus a Retina Display would be awesome (one may still dream).

    • You’re hot!

    • May I ask you what you are going to do with 16gb of ram?

      • I wouldn’t need to worry anymore.

      • Maybe 16 GB would finally provide enough RAM so that Safari cannot tie up all of my memory and bring my iMac to a grinding halt!

      • My late 2009 model iMac has 16GB, and let me tell you, it doesn’t help with Safari! :( The Core i7 iMac screamed in 2010, but now it is slower than my MBP C2D, for reasons I haven’t been able to explain [hardware test checks out fine, but the drive is caching nearly 24/7 resulting in beach balls for every activity on the Mac]. So yeah, I am hoping a new model will cure that, plus add a matte screen option, as color calibration for photo work on this display is impossible.

  • I have a 2008 model at home. Was going to upgrade last year, but it wasn’t enough of a redesign/upgrade for me so I waited. Will be hoping for something special this time around. Retina display would be amazing, but I am not holding my breath.

  • I have a 2010 iMac 27″ at home and I’m dying to sell it, because it’s way too big for me (I have to sit really far away from it to not bend my neck backwards) and now I have to lean forward so I can still see what’s on the screen ;) I want to go back to a smaller screen iMac, but as you wrote: not knowing if there will be a new model anytime soon has me hesitating.

    • Not me. I’m on a 24″ and i’m hoping for a 30″, lol.

  • Happy with my late 2011 iMac. Would imagine that the new iMac would have a new processor, GPU line, larger SSD options. Cant imagine too much of a redesign or anything radicalo to make me want to change. I usually have an iMac for 2 years before swapping so it will be mid to late 2013 before I go for the swap.

  • Same here, using a 2009 27″ iMac and have been waiting waaayyy too long for the 2012 update.
    C’mon Apple, hurry up ;)

  • 2008 here, im waiting for an uppgrade as well hope it comes before diablo3 realeses, cant wait for ssd (hope they get 512gb for imac) and dont charge 1000$ for upgrading it :/

  • I’ve currently got an early 2008 24″ iMac and will be upgrading as soon as a new one come out. Retina display would really be cool but I’m a tad worried what it will mean for me as a web developer!

  • 2011 27″ iMac here. I miss the 24″ model but cannot deny that the 27″ is super-nice when you’re playing games. Still… I don’t think we’ll see a retina display anytime soon.

    My reason? Price. I don’t think Apple can throw a 27″ piece of Retina glass into the iMac and still keep it at its current pricing-scheme. I think we’ll see it for the next round of laptops and probably the iPod Touch but probably another 12-months or better before they throw it on their monitors.

    Unless of course they opt to either take a huge loss on it (doubtful) or offer it up as an upgrade option at a premium (possible).

    Still… I think my next system will have to be a tower. This is my 3rd iMac in 4 or 5 years. I love that they are such a great blend of form and function but I cannot help but wonder if it’s more cost-effective to just buy a tower and upgrade.

  • Maybe the reson for delay is they’ll tweak the design a bit with this year’s update and iMac will get a major spec configuration options to replace Mac Pro.

  • I believe you meant “uncharted territory”, as in, territory that no one has gone to before.

  • Either way, let’s get the ball rolling:

    New Macbook Pro – April 2012
    Macbook Air – July 2012
    New iMac – August 2012
    Mac Mini – August 2012

    OSX 10.8 + iTunes & iWork ’12 – July 2012
    iOS 6.0 – September 2012

    New iPhone & iPod Touch – September 2012
    Bonus – Airport 802.11ac ???

  • I hope a new iMac will look like a Apple Led Cinema Display (no aluminium on the front side),
    and has a small accu for when there is an power failure, so you can still work for half a hour (my cousin’s idea).
    Retina display would be cool, but i do not realy need it.

  • I currently have a 2008 24 inch iMac with 256 MB of video RAM. The new Photoshop CS6 beta calls for a minimum of 512 MB of video RAM and certain operations hang on my machine. I guess it is time for an upgrade. Hurry up Apple!

  • Seems like everyone here is waiting for those new iMacs! I’m keeping my fingers crossed that they’ll shove a Retina Display into the MacBook Pro range (and that they will do so before my education discount runs out!)

    • I believe you can still get the education discount after you retire.

  • Im using 15″ macbook pro, or.. to be more specific Im on laptops since 1998. From first Mac Powerbook in 1998, to Titanium G4 in 2002 etc… I hope there will be no change in Macbook Pro, since its best computer I ever had to work and im doing design and web on it. And sometimes when need it I plug-in on 24″ apple cinema display. No need for a high retina display or similar. Things are going well in this way for me :)

    • But at £900 for just a monitor and then £1550 for a macbook pro I don’t think that’s a viable alternative to the imac for most people, lol.

  • Apple should make an imac with desktop components. Go ahead and make it an extra two inches deep, just get those desktop components fitted in your “desktop” computer! It’s always been ridiculous. The Mac Pro is ridonkulously over-priced so the imac is the only option for most sane people that require desktop components for audio and video work.
    Grrr Apple.

  • I blame the iphones retina display for screwing up my eyes and making me need glasses. I dont want my new imac to have retina display.

    • It messed your eyes up? I’ve never heard that happen. Interesting.

  • This year 2012 will be my first up grade to the new compter. It will be the new
    27” imac . The compter i have now is over 8 years old..its a 17” a Pentium 4 2.8 with 2 gb ram.
    We are
    talking bloody slow. Takes about 1min for e-mail . I think the computer is on its last legs.
    Cant wait for the new Imac.

  • i would like to see some changes before upgrading to the iMac 27 inch.
    One of them is USB3. I love the spes of Thunderbold but I hate the prices of hardware and the limited choice.
    Another would be a real good monitor, retina is an option but would attack my banking balace I guess.
    CPU, GPU, Mem, SSD, … all nice. But give me a well balanced machine at a reasonable price and I would be happy. So Apple, give us ome info to start with !!

  • well, it’s October, and a lot of people are getting seriously impatient! i think we can assume the new iMacs will feature Ivy Bridge processors and USB 3.0 (like the new macbook pro range). but why the massive delays? i have a 2008 iMac and am hanging to upgrade.